Democratic Congress Members Call for Negotiations with North Korea

It is amazing to me that people continue to think that Pyongyang will negotiate away their nuclear weapons without the viable threat of military action against them.  They might as well as advocate for North Korea having nuclear weapons because that is what over two decades of negotiations has led to:

A group of 64 U.S. Democratic lawmakers warned President Donald Trump in a letter Tuesday that he would need congressional approval for any pre-emptive strike on North Korea and encouraged “direct” engagement with the isolationist regime.

“Few decisions are more needing of debate than a move to launch attacks, or declare war, on a nuclear-armed state such as North Korea,” stated the letter addressed to Trump. It went onto warn that an “inconsistent or unpredictable policy runs the risk of unimaginable conflict” with such a volatile country as North Korea.

The letter was signed by a group of congressmen in the House of Representatives led by Reps. John Conyers of Michigan, Barbara Lee of California and Jim McGovern of Massachusetts.

The lawmakers called for more information about what steps the administration is taking “to advance the prospects for direct negotiations that could lower the potential for catastrophic war and ultimately lead to the denuclearization of the peninsula.”

They continued, “In the event that your plans do include an ill-advised military component, we stand ready to exercise our constitutional duty to approve, or reject, any such military action.”

This comes amid concerns in Congress over the Trump administration’s erratic policy toward the North, as the U.S. president has declared “all option are on the table,” leaving a door open to military action including a pre-emptive strike. Trump has also said that he is open to talks with the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un under the right conditions.

The congressmen underscored that while the U.S. Constitution and the War Powers Resolution of 1973 provide the president the authority to act in cases of emergencies, “both require an affirmative authorization from Congress before our nation engages in military action abroad against a state that has not attacked the U.S. or our assets abroad.”

The letter stressed the past three U.S. administrations under presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton ruled out the possibility of military action against Pyongyang and “ultimately determined there was no military option that would not run the unacceptable risk of counter-reaction from Pyongyang.”

Such retaliation from the North, it pointed out, could endanger as many as a third of the South Korean population, nearly 30,000 U.S. troops in the region as well as over 100,000 U.S. citizens living in Korea.

The congressmen encouraged Trump to adhere to a diplomatic approach, expressing support for U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s recent statement that his preferred method for resolution is “direct talks with North Korea,” persuading the North that they do not need nuclear weapons to secure the existence of the regime. They also backed Tillerson’s remarks reassuring Pyongyang that Washington did not seek a regime change in the North or its collapse.

“President Trump’s irresponsible statements on North Korea endanger our troops, our regional allies such as South Korea and Japan, and global security more broadly,” said Conyers, dean of the House of Representatives and one of two remaining Korean War veterans serving in the U.S. Congress, in a press release. “As someone who has watched this conflict evolve since I was sent to Korea as a young Army lieutenant, it is a reckless, inexperienced move to threaten military action that could end in devastation instead of pursuing vigorous diplomacy.”  [Joong Ang Ilbo]

You can read more at the link.

Media Report Claims President Trump “Screamed” at National Security Advisor Over THAAD in Korea Comments

It looks like the honeymoon for Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster is over if the media is to be believed:

McMaster’s allies and adversaries inside the White House tell me that Trump is disillusioned with him. This professional military officer has failed to read the president  — by not giving him a chance to ask questions during briefings, at times even lecturing Trump.

Presented with the evidence of this buyer’s remorse, the White House on Sunday evening issued a statement from Trump: “I couldn’t be happier with H.R. He’s doing a terrific job.”

Other White House officials however tell me this is not the sentiment the president has expressed recently in private. Trump was livid, according to three White House officials, after reading in the Wall Street Journal that McMaster had called his South Korean counterpart to assure him that the president’s threat to make that country pay for a new missile defense system was not official policy. These officials say Trump screamed at McMaster on a phone call, accusing him of undercutting efforts to get South Korea to pay its fair share.  [Bloomberg]

You can read more at the link, but who knows what the real story is when this is all sourced from anonymous leaks from officials in the White House probably eager to undercut General McMaster’s influence with President Trump.

CSIS Expert Claims President-Elect Trump Has No North Korea Strategy

Here is what one expert thinks of President-Elect Trump’s North Korea strategy:

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump appears to lack a plan on how to deal with North Korea even though his administration is set to take off in less than a month, a U.S. expert said Sunday.

Bonnie Glaser, senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), also said in an interview with CBS television that the Trump foreign policy team doesn’t seem to have a full strategy yet on China.

North Korea is “not an issue that Trump knows a lot about,” Glaser said, adding that the concern for the United States is that the North Koreans could pose an existential threat to the homeland if they can make a nuclear warhead that can potentially reach U.S. territory.

“Do we have a strategy that focuses on defense? Do we take a much more aggressive posture against North Korea?” Glaser said, wondering about Trump’s plan. “Some people are raising the possibility of a pre-emptive strike on a missile, if it’s on a launch pad, because we don’t know what’s atop that missile, whether it’s a satellite or a nuclear warhead.

“There may be some discussions about whether we really need to try to cut off trade and harm North Korea’s economy, go beyond sanctions that are really focused on depriving North Korea of weapons of mass destruction,” she said.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link, but North Korea is not an “existential threat to the homeland”.  The Kim regime would need a huge stockpile of nuclear weapons along with the transport erector launchers (TELs) to launch them to be able to destroy a country the size of the United States.  Plus the DPRK’s warhead technology would have to be advanced enough to defeat the US’s Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system.  The Kim regime’s nukes are at best a deterrent that puts a handful of US cities at possible risk if military action is taken to remove the Kim regime.

As far as sanctions they obviously are not working to stop the Kim regime’s WMD programs because of China.  As North Korean diplomat turned defector Thae Yong-ho has already said, the Kim regime understands it can get away with nuclear development because the Chinese will do nothing to stop them.

It is pretty clear that the incoming Trump administration does have a plan, it is just that it is one that is going to focus on China instead of North Korea which Glaser has already pointed out:

“It looks to me like Trump is trying to keep China off balance, to try and signal that he’s not necessarily going to conduct business as usual in the same way that it has been conducted over the last eight years under Obama and that he thinks it can appear that he can gain some leverage by signaling a willingness to confront China,” Glaser said.

Trump’s Taiwan Phone Call Part of Strategy to Pressure China On North Korea

Here is the latest on the Trump phone call with the President of Taiwan that the media was initially trying to frame as him bungling US foreign policy:

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s phone call with Taiwan’s president shows the incoming administration believes China should work hard on North Korea as much as it cares about the cross-strait issue, a transition team official was quoted as saying Tuesday.

The official made the remark during a meeting with a group of South Korean lawmakers, pointing out that China has been unwilling to use its influence over Pyongyang even though Beijing provides most of the North’s energy and food supplies, according to the participating lawmakers.

They declined to identify the official.

On Friday, Trump spoke by phone with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, breaking the decadeslong diplomatic tradition that the U.S. has kept under its “One China” policy since severing ties with Taiwan and normalizing relations with Beijing.

China considers Taiwan a renegade province that must be unified with the mainland and rails against any support for Taiwan’s independence or the notion that the island is not part of the country. Despite the absence of formal diplomatic ties, the U.S. has maintained friendly relations with Taiwan.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link.